Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Rap Guide to Human Nature

Greetings from Edinburgh!

It's 2am on the eve of the world's biggest arts festival, and I can't sleep. Actually for the past three consecutive nights it has been the same, wired until 4 in the morning, then wake up at 7:30 or 8, racing with nervous energy. Given that this is my sixth (!) time performing at the Edinburgh Fringe, you might ask yourself why on earth I would be nervous. The short answer is that I have never been so uncertain of how the show will go, since this is the first time I have ever brought a show to the Fringe that has never been performed before. And tomorrow is the world premiere.

Sure, I have tested out some bits and pieces of new material, ten or fifteen minute excerpts, but never with the live DJ and slide show as an integrated one-hour whole, volume two of my "Rap Guide" series, The Rap Guide to Human Nature. And this year the show has a significant freestyle component, which is designed to draw audience feedback seamlessly into the experience. We shall see.

The main reason I feel so ill-prepared, however, is also the exciting reason I am writing to you at this very moment: I have a new album to share with you! For the past six weeks I have spent the majority of my time crashing as a house-guest of one of the UK's most talented hip-hop producers, Mr. Simmonds (Jamie to his friends), and together we obsessively crafted a hip-hop record with an ambitious scope. It is an introduction to evolutionary psychology and the science of human behaviour, but the record is not only about the scientific study of human nature, it's also about the various alternative explanations of why humans are the way we are (creationism, spiritualism, social-constructivism, etc), and about how these explanations differ, and what each of them has to say about the violence and misogyny in rap music and hip-hop culture, and how they each square up to the evidence.

As I said, ambitious. But once again I have taken care to get my work scientifically peer-reviewed, and in case anyone doubted me last time, this time I actually integrated the peer-review process into the album, with some hilarious results. Anyway, enough preamble. I am extremely proud of this record musically and lyrically and conceptually, and I hope you will give it a good listen. You can now download The Rap Guide to Human Nature for free (pay what you like), just click here.

I put the album online two days ago and without any promotion it has already been linked in a number of blogs and even been reviewed! Here's my favorite quote: "
It's actually a great album. Not an attempt at parody or a tribute, it's an inspired, groove heavy, high production values record with a wonderful lyrical touch."

I also have a new music video to share, a David Attenborough BBC nature documentary-style interpretation of the nightclub scene, entitled "Short-Term Mating Dance". If you've never heard the sound of a female elephant seal squealing in coital ecstasy, mixed with dance music, here's your chance (by the way, the video features me dancing and making a fool of myself in the club six years ago at the Edinburgh Fringe, filmed by my brother on a handycam). Click here to watch it.

And if you haven't heard my new storytelling album, Rapconteur, you can also download it for free at the link below. Rapconteur features new hip-hop adaptations of Beowulf, Gilgamesh, Kalevala, Poe's Raven, and a new Canterbury Tale with an evolutionary psychology twist, and I'll also be performing it here at the Fringe at 8:45pm daily starting on Friday. Check it out just for the amazing artwork by Sean Dove.

Finally, if you are interested in the story of how the adventure unfolds for Jamie and I over the next three and a half weeks, I am blogging the Fringe again this year at, Wish us luck, and have fun with Human Nature, the most gangster album I have ever made by a long shot.

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